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Nurses on sick-out ahead of conciliation talks

FLASH BACK: Nurses at West Demerara Regional Hospital on a recent picketing exercise

Hours before conciliation talks were due to begin on Thursday between the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the Ministry of Labour, nurses at several publicly-owned hospitals were on a sick-out as they intensified industrial action to pressure government into paying more than a five percent back-pay for 2013.

Several union officials and workers confirmed that sick-out was underway at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), New Amsterdam Hospital, West Demerara Regional Hospital and the Linden Hospital Complex.

Feedback about the effectiveness of the two-day sick-out, which ends on Friday, has been so far mixed. One union representative did not expect 100 percent favourable response because there are those who will still go out to work.

Top officials of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) accused the management of the Linden Hospital Complex of threatening to mark down workers reporting sick as absent with the ultimate aim of deducting pay.

Officials, however, noted that legally workers can report sick up to three days after which they must submit a medical certificate.

Intensification of the industrial unrest follows at least three weeks of picketing demonstrations outside government agencies and the Office of the President against the pay-hike.

The GPSU is demanding an interim 15 percent pay increase for this year and the start of negotiations for an overall 25 percent hike.

But government has been repeatedly saying that it could afford to pay only five percent.